Snorkelling in South West Ireland: Beyond The Sea

I am beyond delighted to share some beautiful sights from snorkelling in South West Ireland, I’ve come a long way. My love for the water never started in the sea, but in the most famous Loch in the world, Loch Ness. I grew up in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, where lochs are a-plenty. I remember going to Dores Beach (a beautiful spot on the edge of Nessie’s home) when I was only a bairn. Nothing could keep me out of the water, I’ve always wondered if I should have really born with legs because I’m never happier than when I am in the water, but then again, maybe if I hadn’t been born with legs, I’d take my ocean home for granted. It’s so easy to do that huh? Take for granted what is all around us.As I’ve grown up (supposedly) my passion has outgrown lochs, and the sea has only become an all encompassing part of my life. My soul sits easier at the coast. Mountains and forests are marvellous, but there is nothing as mysterious and magical as the big blue. Over the years, my love for swimming has turned into a vast curiosity of what lies beneath the surface.And so, I started snorkelling in Scotland a few years ago. Ironically in a loch, Loch Duntelchaig, a freshwater loch with perfect visibility nearly all year round which feeds the taps of Inverness. My confidence grew and I soon turned to the sea. A snorkel in Arisaig, on the West Coast of Scotland affirmed it, I was born to explore the sea and coast, the rest is history. My other favourite country outside of Scotland is Ireland, both influenced by their Celtic people of times gone by. The sea on the South West of Ireland has provided some of the best snorkels of my life.

Before I go any further, it is important to highlight safety when swimming. The sea is unpredictable and incredible in equal measures. To enter it, is to enter another world, one you cannot control. Please do research on any of the places you are planning to swim, please educate yourself on rip tides and currents. I highly recommend The Book of Tides, but there is lots of information online, including open water swimming safety on the RNLI website.

Snorkelling in South West Ireland

The flora and fauna in the South West of Ireland is rich, colourful and diverse. Kelp forests of all sizes scatter the coastline, some so large they’re almost intimidating. Once I eventually came to terms with their magnitude, I felt like Alice in a whole other Wonderland. But it isn’t only the kelp, but the vast sea life in this area. If you haven’t yet watched North Atlantic with Ken O’Sullivan, I highly recommend it. Also, please see my article about spotting a humpback whale off the coast of Cork if you’re interested in whale-watching in Ireland. I’ve been joined by all sorts of sea life during my time in South West Ireland. It has built my confidence in the water, educated me about patterns of feeding, tides and taught me more about the way in which all life is connected. Here are two of my favourite snorkelling spots in this beautiful part of the world.

Minard Castle, County Kerry

Alongside the ruins of Minard Castle, a holy well within walking distance, a natural storm bay and a beautiful beach at low tide, this is a wonderful spot for snorkelling. There is a natural bay offering some protection from the strength of the tide. It is important to note the tide times and to research safety when snorkelling anywhere, but I found this one to be fairly predictable.I snorkelled here on both high and low tides. During a high tide, I swam with thousands of sand eels, prime supper for Puffins. They were to the left and right of me and it was nothing short of a shimmering dream. However at low tide, I was joined by a majestic cat-shark. She was graceful and elegant and truly beautiful. I have never seen a cat-shark on a snorkel before and it was so special. There were lots of tiny harmless jellyfish and a few of the bigger kinds beginning to show. I’m writing this at the beginning of June, before jellyfish soup season.We had another beautiful snorkel in Kerry but I’m keeping that one under wraps to protect the landscape surrounding it.

Sheep Head Peninsula, County Cork

Barely 10 minutes on to the Sheep Head Peninsula from Bantry Bay, we found a beautiful little beach, rocky and entirely wild. We arrived at low tide when there were lots of rock formations and just knew once the tide was in, this would be prime snorkelling territory. We were right. Alongside the spectacular rock formations, there were vast forests of kelp in ambers, deep greens, and copper. I spotted my first spider crab here, weaving its way in and out of the sugar kelp. I loved this spot, it has lots of natural lagoons and huge rock fronts for diving from. Just like Jasmine said “unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling.” On a sunny, calm day, the Atlantic is nothing short of utter joy.

The Atlantic Coast

The west coasts of Scotland and Ireland are a joy for snorkelling. I am making it my entire mission to explore these coastlines entirely, to share the magical underwater world around us. If you enjoy wild swimming in the sea, try doing it with a snorkel. It will change your whole experience. Thank you South West Ireland for the amazing snorkelling experiences, this time next year yeah?



The Chief.